Minimum age for sales and transfers: California generally prohibits people from selling handguns to anyone under age 21, and from selling, loaning, or transferring firearms of any type to minors under 18.1 These restrictions are subject to certain exceptions, such as for the transfer of a long gun to a minor by the minor’s parent or legal guardian.2

Effective January 1, 2019, licensed firearms dealers will also generally be prohibited from selling or transferring firearms of any type to people under 21, unless the recipient is a member of the Armed Forces or law enforcement.3 These restrictions apply to private party firearm sales or transfers conducted through a licensed dealer, pursuant to California law. State law does, however, permit certain sales or transfers to occur without a licensed dealer, such as between immediate family members.

California law states that ammunition may not be sold to any purchaser under age 18,4 and that a person must be at least age 18 to obtain a Firearm Safety Certificate.5

Minimum age for possession: California law prohibits minors from possessing a handgun.6 Exceptions to this prohibition include situations where a parent or legal guardian is present or has consented to the possession.7 In addition, minors may, with the consent of a parent or guardian, possess handguns when engaged in certain recreational sports, including, but not limited to, competitive shooting; agricultural, ranching, or hunting activities; and any motion picture, television, or video production, or entertainment or theatrical events, the nature of which involves the use of a firearm.8

There is no minimum age to possess rifles and shotguns in California.

Minimum age for self-assembling or manufacturing a firearm: In order to legally self-assemble or manufacture a firearm in California, an unlicensed person must apply to the state Department of Justice for a background “eligibility” check and firearm serial number.  Effective February 1, 2019, the Department of Justice will only approve such applications if the applicant is aged 21 and over.9 (Previously, the minimum age for such applications was 18 for people attempting to assemble or manufacture a long gun and 21 for handguns).

See our Minimum Age to Purchase & Possess Firearms policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

For age restrictions governing ammunition, see the Ammunition Regulation in California section.

For other provisions related to children and firearms, see the Child Access Prevention in California section.

Notes
  1. Cal. Penal Code § 27505. ⤴︎
  2. See Cal. Penal Code § 27505 for more exceptions. ⤴︎
  3. See 2017 CA SB 1100, amending Cal. Penal Code § 27510. ⤴︎
  4. Cal. Penal Code § 30300(a). Where ammunition may be used in both a rifle and a handgun, it may be sold to a person who is at least 18 years of age, but less than 21 years of age, if the vendor reasonably believes that the ammunition is being acquired for use in a rifle and not a handgun. Cal Penal Code § 30300(a)(2). ⤴︎
  5. Cal. Penal Code § 31625(b). ⤴︎
  6. Cal. Penal Code § 29610. ⤴︎
  7. Cal. Penal Code § 29615. ⤴︎
  8. Id. ⤴︎
  9. 2017 CA SB 1100, amending Cal. Penal Code § 29182(b)(2). ⤴︎